March 4, 2016

Prominent journalists, press groups show solidarity with Zaman over takeover by gov’t

Prominent journalists, columnists, editors-in-chief of leading media outlets in Turkey and heads of press organizations have raised concerns over a government-backed court decision to seize the Feza Media Group, which includes the Zaman and Today's Zaman dailies.

After a staunchly pro-government columnist recently claimed that two critical journalists who were recently released from prison will be re-arrested and that a major critical media outlet will be silenced by the government, Twitter whistleblower Fuat Avni claimed on late Thursday that trustees had been appointed by a court decision to take over the Feza Media Group.

Ahmet Abakay, chairman of the Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD) told Today's Zaman on Friday that the seizure of the Zaman group are counter to the freedom of the media. “No media outlet can be touched. These violations of media freedom take Turkey to the level of third world countries in the league of media freedom,” he said.

Veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak also told Today's Zaman on Friday that she has never witnessed such a period of oppression directed at the media and dissenters, and she described the ongoing pressure as worse than that of military coup eras.

Reacting against Feza group's seizure on Friday, journalist Mustafa Akyol told Today's Zaman that the government-critical media is being taken over by the government itself. Akyol said that these are bad days for Turkey and that the unlawful actions have to be stopped by those who are aware of the illegality of the situation.

Star Daily columnist Cem Küçük, who is known for his open threats to media moguls and journalists critical of the government, claimed on Tuesday that recently released Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Dündar and the paper's Ankara representative Erdem Gül -- who were arrested last November on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, espionage and revealing confidential documents -- will be re-arrested and that the Feza Media Group will be seized by government.

Meanwhile late on Thursday, Twitter whistleblower Fuat Avni claimed that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who “has no tolerance for any media group that would criticize his plans for a presidential switch” ordered the seizure of the Zaman daily, the main newspaper under the Feza Media Group.”

“He told off those said to him that there is no legal basis to seize Zaman,” Avni claimed. “The order [to seize Zaman] has been sent to [his] men at the judiciary,” he further claimed.

Expressing his concern over the seizure of the Feza Media Group, Yeni Asya daily Editor-in-Chief Kazım Güleçyüz also told Today's Zaman on Friday that there are no such arbitrary moves in a democracy. Güleçyüz noted that the seizure of the İpek Media Group already created significant damage to Turkey's global image.

Published on Today's Zaman, 4 March 2016, Friday